Following the school tour we rode through some of the banana fields to visit the processing facility.
The fields ranged along both sides of the road, and then we came to the processing area. We could see workers cutting the bunches down from the plants (removing them from the protective bags that cover them from insect and rain damage while they grow) and placing foam rubber dividers between what would later be the individual bunches. On a single cutting from the plant there would be maybe a half-dozen of these dividers, looking like spirals going up the bunch. Then, huge banana bunches still hanging on the line by hooks they’d been placed on in the field, the heavy line was manually dragged along, the bunches moving conveyer-belt style into the covered area where they were separated into smaller bunches. The foam protectors were removed, and the now-consumer-size banana bunches all went into a huge water bath, to wash off the lactose that exudes from the stalk onto the fruit when it was cut in the fields. The banana bunches gradually move toward workers who remove individual bananas that were deemed too small or damaged in some way were removed and separated out; most of those can be consumed locally or sold in local markets. The bunches were removed from the bath, shaken free of most of the water and the sticker of the firm that would be selling them was applied (a local sticker today; but could be Dole or Chiquita or whatever) the now-individual bunches that you’d find in your own store joined the conveyor line where workers grabbed a box, lined it with brown paper and a plastic liner, used a foam shaper to hold the bananas temporarily in place until the box was full; the plastic was folded down around the bunches, the foam spacer removed and the lid placed on the box, with a number-label so the packer could be identified as the workers are paid part salary and part packing bonus of some sort. Boxes roll off very fast, ready to go and each day they pack thousands of boxes.
Off to the side, before the bananas reached these packers were box-makers; one person slapped glue (via a large brush) onto the flaps; the box was unfolded on a form which rotated; as it filled with 4 boxes and turned, presses forced the flaps together so the glue would hold and then the finished boxes joined a conveyer belt where the packers could quickly get them.
I buy bananas at Costco for prices ranging from $1.20 to $1.32 and I have no idea, now that I see what goes into the packaging, not to mention shipping, how they can sell for that price..
HAL Shore Excursion
I don't think it's possible to arrange a tour like this indiviidually. A search of online tour agencies for the area displays only the tour offerings of the many cruise lines that call here.
The tour organization selects what they call "the best" of the co-operatives to visit; that's their definition, but we think we probably were taken to an excellent example of this type of town.
Blog Content & Website Design: Marney Wilde • Photographs by George Wilde